Thursday, April 4, 2013

School of Rocks

Wednesdays and Thursdays are my days off and I’m happy to say I packed in the outdoor adventures this weekend.  Yesterday morning my friend Emily and I hiked The Watchman Trail on the southern end of Zion Canyon which is wide, sunny, and full of grasses and wildflowers compared to the north end which is narrow, dark and dramatic.
 The Watchman Trail is a great hike that’s relatively easy.  We climbed 450 feet in a mile and then came back down, all of which took an hour and a half, including a nice long break at the top where we took advantage of the great cell reception to call friends and family :)

Looking north into Zion Canyon from The Watchman's lookout point

We got back in time for Emily to get to work.  I refueled on corn dogs in the cafeteria and decided to hit another trail: Hidden Canyon.Since I was hiking alone this time, I stopped by the lodge's front desk to tell the agents where I was going and to expect me back in 3.5 hours.  I hiked Hidden Canyon about a week ago with a friend so I knew what I was getting into: 850 foot gain in a mile of switchbacks before leveling out to a scramble through a narrow canyon. Time to put those corn dogs to work!

View of The Organ (center) and Angels Landing (sin-wave shape on upper left) from the switchbacks

After the switchbacks the trail tucks into some interesting pockets of the canyon walls which you make your way around with the assistance of chains.

Up in Hidden Canyon it was dark and darn-near chilly (it was blazing hot on the exposed switchbacks).  The walls seemed to completely change color and texture every ten yards.  One of my favorite parts was this section where the north wall was covered in green moss and ferns and the south wall was a stark red rock.

Freestanding arch inside Hidden Canyon

This hike might be my favorite so far.  The trail is full of surprises and it can be as challenging as you want it to be.  As you hike further into the canyon you will face increasingly difficult climbing obstacles.  I went pretty far with my friend last week, but since I was alone I turned back early and checked back in with the front desk before turning in for an excellent night's sleep.

Today I joined a small group that was learning how to rappel.  We followed our guide, Phil, behind the employee housing area to a beautiful 80 foot waterfall.  Phil coached each one of us as we took turns backing over the fall and rappelling to the pool below.

It was awesome!  I even went back to rappel a second time.  My next challenge is to master the climb.  Stay tuned!

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